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Re: <nettime> "Barbarous" Critique of Hardt & Negri
tobias c. van Veen on Mon, 7 Jul 2003 07:56:01 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> "Barbarous" Critique of Hardt & Negri

I usually refrain from such quick snips to the list, but ..

> Crisso and Odoteo, on the
>    contrary, use direct language as sharp as a barbarian's sword to
>    cut through the murky web of Hardt's and Negri's postmodern
>    doublespeak to reveal the essentially anti-revolutionary core of
>    their perspective.

.. ironic use of metaphor--"barbarian's sword... murky web..."--and
elongated, wordy grammar to prove a point about "direct language," eh?

"Direct language" where the author's names are anarchist tags?

Even before reading this "direct language as sharp as a barbarian's sword" I
can't help but chuckle as to the way in which the polemic embraces this
exact charge of metaphoricity -- even if it comes from the translator.

Can't anarchists be anarchists without resorting to such ridiculous
assertions over _direct language_? If they really cared, wouldn't they be
focusing on the ideas, the strategy, and taking down the State, and not
performing what amounts to a _violent and negationary hermeneutics_?

Moreover, this piece is every bit as wordy as Hardt and Negri.

Read the analysis -- they reveal nothing new, by "rip[ping] the veil" of
Hardt and Negri. Claims over the deconstruction of the individual and a
concept of subjectivity produced through social relations are hardly
groundbreaking. In fact the main claim seems to be simple shock that Hardt
and Negri's politics problematizes "individual choice, will, desire or
self-activity." Well, if this is the shock, then the trauma is old--and
anarchism has much to catch up on, at least the "anarchism" presented here.
Where's PL Wilson when you need him?

In any case, the claim is not quite right--"desire" has a lot to do with
Hardt & Negri, although it is true to say that the individual, concepts of
the will and "self-activity" (whatever that entails and as to why this is a
virtue remains unclear) are given rigorous undoing as historical processes
_of capital_ -- of humanism. But to misconstrue "desire" is rather a
fundamental error.

Anarchism in this form remains a humanism, as historical counterpart to
theology as much as capital and 19th century socialism, and where theology
or its interlocutors don't exist, it must "rip the veil" to find a new God
to deface. Such is the process of this "barbaric" hermeneutics.

In short, I think the more interesting questions are issues of complicity
between capital and resistance that Hardt & Negri pick up on-- issues of
complicity because I think it is a smart move to realise that
"self-activizing" the "destruction of Empire" would amount to nothing short
of violent (self-)genocide and the havoc of war, oppression, and centuries
of backlash if actually enacted--and if we were all not destroyed in the
process. Crisso and Odoteo spend the rest of the analysis picking up this
point, but only to equate Hardt & Negri as servants of Empire, usually via
(the evil) Hegel-- but they do so by paradoxically practising a Hegelian
dialectic themselves. The most backwards bending bit erupts when after
stating the apparently Hegelian telos of Hardt & Negri and providing an
explanation of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialectic, they say:

"For Marx and for his crony, Engels, revolution did not constitute the
negation of the civilization of capital, a breaking point in its deadly
progression, but rather its felicitous final outcome. "

Well, _today_, for Hardt & Negri, of course revolution didn't, and wouldn't,
constitute such a negation (or as later called for, "rupture"); for such a
negation/rupture would be nothing short of the Hegelian antithesis or
negation of the historical dialectic in practice. In fact, what Crisso and
Odoteo accuse Hardt & Negri of--teleological Hegelianism--is exactly what
they, at this very point, call for (if not attempt to practice against Hardt
& Negri): the "negation of the civilization of capital," what would amount
to nothing but the Hegelian move .. well, here we go: par excellence -- what
would amount to performing the negationary blow against that which one has
also cast in the pure role of opposition. It's much easier to kill, too,
when one has reduced the other to a mere unhuman & totalized evil opposite
of one's self and everything one stands for; it's much easier to destroy and
negate it all... but that all is never possible--and so synthesis, like
shit, happens. 

Simply, revolution has to be about something other than revolving, and about
negation, and about the continual bleeding of humanity. If that means an
affirmative road that is more difficult than calling for the ultimate
destruction of everything that is "capitalist"--than so be it (and even as
an "anti-capitalist," I remain unclear as to where this distinction could be
drawn.. I imagine a bourgeoisie mother: so do we shoot her in the anarchist
negation? Is this what the anarchist revolution is, here? A return to the
violence of armed revolutionaries? A neverending, bitter attack against the
spectres of Marx, even "after the revolution"? An attack that no one would
hear, in any case: deficient as we would be in any aspect of globalization,
doubtless including the Net, if not the printing press. Ignorance is bliss?
Destroy the means to communicate & we will never know of our differences.).

And I'll admit it--although it is nothing to admit--I think the
globalization of the world(s), insofar as it develops and makes possible a
communicative potential and a network of information & data between corners,
I think this potential is a smart move. A productive move. It's also a
dangerous move--but there are no longer going to be the kind of purist
politics which "oldskool anarchists" like Cross and Odoteo seem to want to
rely on--sit on, violently defend, even. There never were, in fact, which is
why anarchism in this form is so violently untenable.

None of this critique, however off the top of my head, dampers the overall
thrust of Cross and Odoteo's analysis, which I respect in its overall
impact: Hardt & Negri's ideas are obviously imperfect, but hardly agents
_of_ Empire. Yes, they are communist, and of course they contain traces of
Marx, and of course they are attempting to remix Marx via a rhizomatic
schema, with results that very and are often problematic if not at points
operating at a logic which they themselves are not fully aware (ie, open to
deconstruction). I don't fully agree with Hardt & Negri and I'm not seeking
to defend their project. However I think attacking it via a negative
hermeneutics in this fashion to be far from productive. What Hardt & Negri
are being accused of is neither hidden nor complicit, but open, and
moreover, part and parcel of their cited precursors and influences (Deleuze
and Guattari, primarily). The debate raised here, then, is perhaps nothing
more than another stage for the anarchists to yell at Marx, which they do
here, or their wonderful shrinkwrap of the "post-structuralists." Somebody
should tell them that Marx is dead (along with Foucault, and his
"author")--and that the meetings of the Internationale ended long, long ago.

And cyborgs aren't such a bad thing.

It--all of it--is something I've been thinking of in the shift from
subcultural politics (& the interminable & often irreverent analyses of
cultural studies of "resistance") to globalized "micro.cultures of
technology," where it's no longer a question of resistance, of the
counter-content to the State, but of creating travelling networks, of
disseminating the very practice of the network itself (from memes to semes):
in other words, to turn the globalizing force of capital against itself,
while yes indeed exposing the potential to be had from a global perspective,
global action(s), globalizations that would nonetheless abhor reducing the
globe to the ultimate market capitalism and on the other hand abhor
minimizing globalism to a remixed Kantian cosmopolitanism.

We wouldn't even be reading this discussion if it wasn't for
globalization--the globalization, primarily, of dissent.

In fact I'll post something to the list very soon on this which was recently
blabbed away today at IASPM--

Swinging swords, barbarians, metaphors and phalluses from Montréal,


tobias c. van Veen -----------
------------- tobias {AT} rhizome.org
---McGill Communications------
ICQ: 18766209 | AIM: thesaibot

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